Win or Lose, Your Character Will Be Revealed

March 1, 2017

Werth eBlast Win.Lose Photo

This past weekend gave us to two extraordinary yet opposing examples of leadership, both of which played out on national television (and replayed in social media), to be celebrated as well as scrutinized.


On Saturday, Kim Mulkey, head coach of the Baylor University women’s basketball team, notched her 500th career victory in a storied career that includes two national championships and appearances in the NCAA tournament in all but one of her 17 years as Baylor’s head coach. As she took center court after the historic win, with her team and media surrounding her, Mulkey’s charged remarks were surprising.

The words she spoke – first promoting violence (“If somebody’s around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face.”) and later referencing “being tired of hearing” about the school’s problems – are largely being condemned given the ongoing and highly publicized sexual assault allegations at Baylor. At her post-game press conference, she continued: “This is a great institution. The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.” It’s of little surprise that she was making the rounds with media the following day apologizing for her remarks.
Mulkey is a seasoned leader and is no stranger to the media. With a moment of that magnitude about to happen, being unprepared is unacceptable (she claims not thinking about her remarks before stating them to the crowd). If anyone understands the importance of preparation and staying the course, it’s a coach.

Juxtapose that scene with one that unfolded a day later.


The most talked-about moment of the 89th Academy Awards ceremony wasn’t a political statement or awkward joke by host Jimmy Kimmel; it was the erroneous awarding of Best Picture to the wrong filmmakers. But there’s also a leadership takeaway that shouldn’t get lost in the chaos.

“La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz did what any good leader would do – he calmly seized control of an apparent sinking ship. Once he recognized the mistake, he took control of the moment, grabbed the card from a confused Warren Beatty, called up the actual winners, and showed the card with “Moonlight” on it to the crowd and camera. Kimmel’s attempt at humor fell flat amid the confusion, but again Horowitz righted the ship: “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight” and proceeded by handing over the Oscar, and went about hugging the Moonlight team before walking off stage so the winners could enjoy their moment.

Like Mulkey, Horowitz also had follow-up requests with the media the next morning. However, no apologies were necessary and a much different type of story ensued.

Wins and losses tell a story, but not a complete one. If we pay closer attention, we often find that the mark of a true leader isn’t rooted in their success, but rather their ability to handle adversity.

These two incidents prompt simple questions that any leader can begin addressing right now: When the spotlight is on – and inevitably it will be – will you be prepared? How will you choose to be remembered?